A project celebrating the story of dance in Derby since 1950's
Share your experiences of dancing in Derby
Derby Dancing volunteer Kay shares her memories of Derby’s vibrant dance history from 1950s through to the late 70’s.
Hi my name is Kay Brooks I have lived in Derby all my life. I have four older brothers and a sister, and have many memories of the Derby Dance scene, through their eyes and my own.
Where to begin, well I remember my older brother and sister dancing at Rendezvous de dance aka Victor Sylvester’s dance club. This was situated next to the Gaumont Cinema (now a large restaurant), up a flight of stairs. There was ballroom dancing, and of course the new dance craze the jive (mid 50,s). My brother and sister won medals and awards for their talents.
Then onto the 60,s and we have the Stork Club situated on Osmaston Road somewhere it was on the corner of Nightingale Road I think, and in an old building. Fantastic fluorescent lighting that made everything glow bright white even your teeth. I went once but was spotted by my brother and told to leave as I was only fifteen at the time.
The Italian Club situated on Osmaston Road near town was a favourite hangout for teenagers, they had a TV room, a bar, and a good dance floor. The best night was Sunday it was very busy. I met my husband there, and so it holds very fond memories. He had a scooter and used to take me into town to catch the last bus.
Of course another wonderful club was the Polish Club my memories seem to locate it on Charnwood street. All the sounds of Motown and latest chart hits filled the dance floor, it was always busy, I loved it.
Of course every Tuesday night was Locarno night we never missed it. It was the place to dress up and dance the night away. No drunken behaviour, just pure music magic. From the balcony we would stand and look down on the light speckled floor and watch the dancers and of course the smartly dressed lads in their suits as they walked by. A good place to see and be seen, in your clothes, the girls in their mini skirts and dresses (probably bought from 'Shades' or Gersh Jacobs on the market) and the lads in their handmade suits from Jacksons, Burtons or Sydney Levy. You could walk all the way round the dance floor, then climb the stairs to the balconies and walk around again. The atmosphere was magic, the music was the thing, we didn’t need to get drunk to enjoy, (the law was very strict then and adhered to) we used to drink coke and dance the night away.
The New Penny on St Peters Street up above Hepworth’s that used to be, I think it was the first late dance venue. Large wooden dance floor, dark lighting. Good sounds.
Sometimes we would go out of Derby to The Blue Orchid on Gypsey Lane Draycott, but only if we could get a lift, as not many of us had cars. But it was worth it, for a single admittance price we could have 'chicken in a basket' which was delicious. It would get packed with dancers, and we would sit tucking into our meal and simply people watch.
Also I nearly forgot, there was a nightclub in the Bell Hotel on Sadler Gate, small but had a great atmosphere. Here again the lighting made everyone glow, there was no cloakroom so everyone threw their coats on the floor in a dark corner. Chart sounds and old soul music kept the small dance floor busy.
Then of course there was the game changer The Clouds where I lied about my age to get in. We had to queue for ages up the narrow stairs to get in. But it was so worth it. Standing on those stairs you could hear the music, and feel the atmosphere. And when you reached the top and paid to get in, it was electric. DJ Bobby Child and his sidekick Rob would be playing all the greatest soul music ever. It was riveting, dance, dance that’s all you wanted to do. I saw some great acts there, and to hear the soul sound being sung live was amazing. Somethings you never forget, my boyfriend (later my husband) and all our friends would dance the night away. We never got tired and it was an event we never missed. Later early 70,s Northern Soul was introduced and of course we were there, some of the dance moves were truly amazing, spinning, backflips, high jumps, you name it they were all demonstrated to the vibrating Northern sounds. Loved it.
Then much later a more sophisticated dance scene developed (we were getting a bit older) and Baileys opened on Colyear Street. Huge place, lots of seated and dining areas. Some very good shows were put on and the music was very good, but more chart stuff. A good night out.
The Hippo club a little further down, was more intimate, had a small dance floor, and some good sounds, good on a Wednesday night.
Later came Pink Coconut another commercial nightclub, with a stainless steel dance floor not very good for high shoes music varied mostly chart stuff.
Then I think it became Sadie’s (not sure) but the music was better.
Last but not least The Blue Note, wonderful sophisticated club, great music and live bands. Used to be the place to be seen, very smart interiors, a late dance venue.
Of course there are more stories to tell of, the people, the clothes, the trends….
If you have any memories or photographs of dance in Derby or would like to help research the story of dance in the city then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or else call 01332 374667.
Derby Dancing celebrates the story of dance in Derby since 1950s.
Find out more about the project and the many ways to get involved here.
Derby Dancing is kindly support by Heritage Lottery Fund.